A HAMSTRING injury to Leon Barnett capped a thoroughly miserable weekend for Wigan Athletic.
The big centre-back is a doubt for the remainder of the festive programme after limping off in the closing stages of Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat to Rotherham, which means Latics will spend Christmas Day six points adrift of safety in the Championship.
Latics had already made all three of their substitutions when Barnett pulled up lame, leaving them to play out the closing stages a man down as they chased an equaliser.
Barnett’s likely lay-off means Ivan Ramis, Gary Caldwell, Rob Kiernan and Thomas Rogne could come into contention for the Boxing Day trip to Leeds, with Maynor Figueroa also able to fill in there.
Another alternative would be for James Perch to switch from full-back, which would open the door for James Tavernier to return at right-back and give the side more desperately-needed attacking options. The Boxing Day clash with Leeds has taken on added significance with the West Yorkshire side only seven points clear of Latics in seventh-bottom spot.
But skipper Emmerson Boyce acknowledges Latics will have to do a whole better than they did on Saturday if they are to come home with anything.
“We are letting soft goals in at the moment and finding it really difficult to score, but we have to keep going and keep our heads up,” Boyce said.
“We have to keep believing. We keep saying it week in, week out that we have got a good squad, but it doesn’t mean anything on paper.
“We have to perform on the pitch - and at the moment we’re not doing that.
“We have to keep digging deep and keep going, and hopefully our quality will shine through and we’ll get the rewards we desperately need.”
Boyce recognises the six-point gap to safety is concerning, and cranks up the pressure ahead of the Boxing Day action.
“The Christmas period is always important and even more so this year for us,” he added.
“We have to look forward to our Boxing Day fixture and we’ve got to pick up maximum points, because we don’t want that gap to get away from us.
“We’re in a position we don’t want to be in, but we have no divine right to be anywhere else other than where the league table tells us where we are.
“We have to hold our hands up and say we haven’t performed as well as we should have.
“We have to make ourselves hard to beat again. At the moment teams are scoring too easily against us and, as a defender, that’s a real disappointment.
“We have to keep working hard and turn things around.
“We can’t keep saying the same things every week, and hard luck stories.
“We can’t panic, but we need to start picking up points very soon.”